City Rising: San Francisco and the 1915 World's Fair
CHS, 678 Mission Street, San Francisco
February 22 – December 6, 2015
Palace of Fine Arts, San Francisco
February 20, 2015 – January 10, 2016
In the early twentieth century, a splendid walled city of domed palaces, palm-lined courts, and monumental statuary arose on San Francisco's northern shore. The 1915 Panama-Pacific International Exposition (PPIE)—a world's fair commemorating the opening of the Panama Canal just nine years after the devastating earthquake and fires of 1906—emerged on 635 acres of land previously submerged by water.
The fair featured eleven exhibition palaces showcasing objects from every corner of the globe, more than 1,500 sculptures commissioned from artists all over the world, 65 acres of amusement concessions, and an aviation field. Fifty California counties, forty-eight states, and twenty-one countries mounted displays in the exposition's grand pavilions. Then, after the fair closed, this ephemeral city was all but erased from the landscape. In the intervening ten months, nearly nineteen million people—about twenty times the population of San Francisco at the time—were drawn to the spectacle.
What accounts for this world's fair's popularity, and what connections can we make with the present day?
In celebration of the PPIE's centennial anniversary, the California Historical Society presents two related exhibitions exploring the PPIE as a critical event that shaped the San Francisco we know today—a city undaunted by tragedy, audaciously innovative, rising to meet the challenges of the day.
- At our headquarters at 678 Mission Street, we invite you to take a journey inside the exposition to see what fairgoers would have encountered 100 years ago in the grand palaces, exotic foreign pavilions, and the amusement midway known as the Joy Zone.
- At the Palace of Fine Arts, we explore this city within a city. The only PPIE building saved from demolition, the Palace of Fine Arts was repaired in the 1930s and reconstructed in the 1960s. Visitors will see how the fair, a city of wonder with its own water, power, and transportation systems, and even a dedicated fire department, entertained and enchanted millions of people from around the world.
An exciting series of public programs and an exhibition publication complement the exhibitions.
Reflect with us on this moment in San Francisco's history when the city stepped onto the world stage to represent the country and state at the beginning of a century in which both would figure prominently.